All About The ‘Snow White’ Live-Action Controversy 

Two years away from its scheduled release, Disney’s live-action adaptation of the classic 1937 animation, ‘Snow White,’ has already found itself mired in controversy and confusion. This project, initially intended to bring the beloved fairy tale into the 21st century, has become a lightning rod for criticism and debate on both sides of the internet. Is this revamp needed? 

The first glimpse of this highly anticipated movie, set for a 2025 release due to a recent writers’ strike, features the iconic Snow White alongside her seven loyal homunculi. But why has Disney chosen this moment to unveil it to the world? It could be a reminder that the project is still alive and kicking, despite the strangeness that surrounds it.

Image Courtesy: Variety

From the get-go, ‘Snow White’ managed to land in hot water with various groups, including what can be termed “anti-woke” crusaders and individuals with dwarfism. The latter group raised a reasonable concern: they argued that roles like the dwarves should be portrayed by actors with dwarfism, which is a valid point. Even Peter Dinklage, renowned for his role in ‘Game of Thrones,’ didn’t hold back his criticism, calling the story “backwards” and lamenting the perpetuation of patronizing tales.

Virtually everyone who has voiced an opinion about the film in the media seems to harbour a different vision of how the story should or should not be retold. The movie’s star, Rachel Zegler, shared her perspective at Disney’s D23 meet, stating that the studio is reimagining the tale through a 21st-century lens. In her words, ‘Snow White’ won’t be saved by the prince, nor will she be fixated on true love. Instead, she dreams of becoming a leader, as her late father encouraged her to be fearless, fair, brave and true.

Image Courtesy: NBC News

These comments seem fairly innocuous for an 86-year-old movie in need of a modern update. 

Much of the anger directed at ‘Snow White’ stems from paparazzi pictures allegedly taken during the film’s shoot in Bedfordshire. These images indicated that the dwarves had been replaced by a diverse cast of mostly able-bodied, average-height actors, labelled “magical creatures.” Only one actor with dwarfism was present, creating further controversy.

The authenticity of these pictures has been questioned. At this point, one wouldn’t be surprised if they turned out to be the creation of a mischievous AI designed to provoke social conservatives. Disney has clarified that these shots are not “official” photos, and they bear a closer resemblance to a local theatre production of ‘Robin Hood and His Merrie Men’ from the 1980s than a major Hollywood production.

Image Courtesy: The News International

In response to the uproar, Disney has opted for a solution that may not please everyone but aims to avoid further controversy. In the released still, Rachel Zegler is surrounded by seven entirely CGI dwarves, with reports suggesting that actor Martin Klebba may play all of them, or possibly just the role of Grumpy. This move buys Disney more time to resolve the conundrum, to release a final product that minimizes annoyance and maximizes box office success.

This entire fiasco raises a critical question: What is the purpose of this new Snow White? It won’t be the traditionalist fantasy of love that some conservatives seem to desire. Nor does it appear to have enough substance for a clever and satirical feminist remake like the recent ‘Barbie’ movie. It seems that Zegler will spend a significant amount of time in front of a green screen. So, where does this leave us?

Image Courtesy: Daily Mail

The worry is that this adaptation may land somewhere in the realm of bland and prosaic, another 21st-century, tech-assisted reworking of a classic that has endured through time because it reflects the era it was created. But, at the very least, Disney now has nearly two more years to prove the sceptics wrong and deliver a ‘Snow White’ that can stand on its own in modern cinema. 

-Britney Jones